Archive for the ‘full moon’ Category

Solstice 2020 — and a New Moon

The co-occurrence of astronomical events multiplies their psychological effect. Even if the new moon and the coming solstice (winter in the southern hemisphere, summer in the north) on this June 20-21 weekend offer no more than a psychological effect, they would be worth acknowledging and celebrating. But for many they offer much more.

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As markers of both sacred and secular time, they locate us in the moment. No thanks, you might be saying. Any moment but this. It can help to think of what our ancestors had to bear, but that’s often easier when our own troubles don’t crowd around us and nip our heels. At such times we may not have the leisure or perspective to be grateful our forebears survived long enough to keep the line going, to pass along whatever wisdom they’d garnered, along with their DNA. The advice to “live always in the present moment, because it is the only one that’s real” sounds wonderful — until the present sucks. Then it’s anywhere and anywhen but here and now. So we time-travel with a vengeance, distracting ourselves through whatever means we can lay hands on. Sometimes it can seem like the best prayer we can offer for others is may your distractions bring you comfort. Wine, weed, wool-gathering, to name just a few.

But pursued with intention and love, moon and sun festivals lift us out of ourselves. We’ve all had the experience of playing sports, or gardening, or some other activity where we’re so intent on what we’re doing we don’t notice the cut or scratch or other injury until some time later, or until we spot the blood or bruise. Only then, with the coming of our attention, do we feel the sting or ache. For an interval, something else was more important and more interesting than pain. Celebrating seasonal and planetary cycles can help us focus where we choose to look, not where our circumstances pluck and tug at us to look. Always? No. Often enough to help us reset and recalibrate? Yes.

Sun and moon, they reconnect us. The jarring frequency of fluorescent lights can bother the eyes, and the hum of them overhead can be an irritant. Sunlight and moonlight don’t feel that way. They energize, unfolding us to ourselves and our surroundings. They bathe us in light, in a vibration billions of years old, native to our atoms.

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Antelope Canyon, New Mexico — a play of light and form. Image: Pexels.com

As archetypes with physical analogues, moon and sun help tune us in to other archetypes, if we choose. We can begin with the physical realm, and let experiences accumulate without jettisoning our critical intelligence, taking us step by step more deeply into wonder and joy. Our ancestors painted animals on the walls of caves, danced the hunt, linked with a clan or tribal spirit, saw in animals a brother and sister that could guide and teach, advise and protect. An animal, they long ago discovered, isn’t “just an animal”. One of the large and wonderful lessons of Druidry, as in many other paths, is a simple and profound one: Things are more than they appear.

You might call it the iceberg principle. What’s immediately visible is a key to what’s underneath. We seem to get this with the people in our lives we know reasonably well. We see through a friend’s odd mood or gruffness or silence or manic laughter into a more underlying movement and wait or prod or listen as we’ve learned to do. Moon and sun reward a similar friendship and patience.

The next full moon arrives in just a few days, and I’m revising and tweaking the draft of my recent full moon ritual, and thinking about dark moon and new moon rituals, too. With the clearer skies much of the world is enjoying with the enforced reduction of traffic and travel, this could be an ideal time to deepen acquaintance with the Two Lights in our skies no one needs to plug in, or pay a utility to operate.

And so the voice of a Druid comes, and says to me, even as I say to you:

I bless you in each of your moons,
your fullnesses and your dark nights.
I bless you in your changing faces,
in the pearl shadows of your twilights.

Because who doesn’t need blessing, and to bless ourselves, and to bless others, and to welcome the blessings of others coming our way!

And we can say to ourselves, and to each other:

In between, when we dance or dream,
we trade places with tree,
beast, or spirit of the grove,
and soon or late we uncover
another doorway that opens
for us to walk the sky.

Some of our truest names are written in sun- and moonlight.

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Moon Ritual Scrapbook

Two Questions to Ask

“What’s your ritual goal?” Celebrating on a beautiful evening? Performing moon magic? Attuning to the rhythms of earth’s nearest neighbor? Healing, banishing, blessing? Charging a ritual implement? Making the most of heightened sensitivity and emotion at this time? Singing a song, or writing a poem? Painting? Finally writing a difficult letter? Making love? A blend of several of these? Which ones are primary for you?

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BAM Gathering, Full Moon, Sept. 2019

“What’s your moon?” Is it New, Full, Waxing, Waning? You can see the moon as a guide and also as a “map to manifestation”. What do each of its phases suggest to you?

With some preliminary answers to these two sets of questions, you’re already better prepared to proceed. Journal, do divinations, watch your dreams, doodle, pray, listen and watch the natural world holding your intent in your heart as ways to refine your preparation, and you’ll be rewarded with deepening insight and more possibilities that will come to you.

Moon Names

Different sources of lore will suggest a range of names and associations for each moon and month, depending on the tradition they draw from. One name for the April full moon just past is Pink Moon. Native American names can be evocative, and may help point you toward specific conditions and qualities present in your locale — if you live in North America. But Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia each have their own varied traditions and imagery that do the same thing. Images and stories give you material for your rites: they help you focus attention and emotion and imagination in the service of your ritual intent. They’re also fun!

Melody and Harmony

Just as important in a ritual as the words you choose are any musical instruments, dances, enactments, costumes, gestures. Or try an entire ritual without words. What can you do, rather than say, to perform your ritual? When I performed my Ovate self-initiation, by far the most significant components were flickering candlelight in my dark living-room, my ritual nakedness marked by charcoal runes on skin, and the silence. OBOD materials suggested a ritual. But it was the personal experience, including the details I just mentioned, that made mine memorable and transformative.

A Basic Script

Here’s a sample “barest-bones” mini-script you can elaborate with your own intent, setting, companions and creativity. Treat it as you would the grain of sand that becomes a pearl in an oyster — an irritant that can grow and take shape and become a thing of beauty. Don’t like part or all of it? That’s fine! Change it!

Full/new/dark Moon of (month name), I/we greet you here and now.

I/we bring (specific offering, intention, dedication, vow) as token(s) of my/our intent.

Bless/heal/enlighten (you, your gathered group, a project, an object, the coming day).

You could, for example, fit in non-verbal ritual elements before and after each spoken part. How will you signal your rite has begun? Bells, drums, horns, etc. each have distinctive voices to contribute. Lights, incense, candles, torches all have roles they can play. “Moon foods” — the ancient mangiare in bianco (literally, “to eat in white”) of Italy — comes to mind. White wine, pale fruit juices, bananas, nuts, pasta, pears, apples, beans, bread, other pastries, etc. can all serve — and be served at your rite! “Season to taste” in addition to being a cooking instruction is a wonderful piece of ritual advice.

A Local Lunar Calendar

Consider making a list of each moon for the current year — your own lunar calendar, with room for notes, pictures, additions, poems, etc. Note the dates of the moon phases each month, and also your local season. June in North America is sometimes called “Strawberry Moon” for the fruit coming into season then, but of course that doesn’t work in the Southern Hemisphere — it’s the middle of winter then!

Personalizing

What personal events and associations might you include in your rituals for each moon? May, for instance, is the Moon of my birth, and it’s also Beltane Moon, so any moon ritual with that moon will feel different to other moons, even if I used the “same” script each time. What’s the local weather during each moon? How might land and sky spirits be included? What other rites and celebrations happen where you live? Who do you want to invite to celebrate with you? If you’re typically “alone” for such things, what ancestors feel right to include? When will you walk/dance/play with your animal guide, guardian, etc?

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“backyard birch” bark for ritual writing

What props do you already have that can be included, or perhaps dedicated, in a rite? The quartz you picked up on a walk, the statue or bowl or cup that caught your eye in a shop or at a flea market or antique auction and now rests on a shelf? That gift from a relative or friend you’ve had for ages? A ring you’ve inherited from an aunt or grandmother?

The strips of birchbark from our backyard tree, in addition to providing great kindling, are excellent for writing during a ritual: ogham, runes, blessings, “give-aways” of things participants don’t want, commemorations (stitched/bound while still supple into a booklet). These strips can be burnt, composted, or saved as appropriate.

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hazelnut necklace

Our Vermont seed-group, the Well of Segais, features the hazel among its mythic associations and symbols — the nut that feeds the Salmon of Wisdom, which some OBOD groves use to represent the Power or Guardian of the West and of Water. Ground symbols in objects and you make the ritual that much more accessible to the senses, imagination and memory. As a group gift, Mary Anna drilled hazelnuts and made up packets with thread for us each to make our own necklaces: “nine hazels of wisdom”. An appropriate and personal piece of ritual gear for a moon ritual!

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I bless you in each of your moons,
your fullness and your dark nights.
I bless you in your changing faces,
in the pearl shadow of your twilight.

In between, when I dance or dream,
both or neither, I trade places
with tree, beast, spirit of the grove,
soon or late uncovering
another doorway to your sky.

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A House between What if? and Impossible

On an online Druid forum I frequent, an atheist Druid recently posted those words. That’s where I aim to live my life, he said (I’m paraphrasing). Between What If? and Impossible. (That part’s verbatim.)

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moss rock in backyard, 9 March 2020

It’s a remarkable space, that interval.

“Knowledge is disinfectant”, notes David Ropeik in today’s USA Today apropos of the virus commanding so much of our attention. True enough: knowledge is also a bridge, a compass, a balm for fears, a great gift passed along from ancestors to descendants, our precious long human heritage, built slowly and often with great effort, against fear and superstition and a disinclination to train and refine and amplify these animal instincts into something more than the survival baseline we’re all granted at birth. (What else are these enormous brains for, if not to play with and improve on the given?)

We add, each of us, to the human tapestry, helping to provide each other with experiences of this world. Hail and welcome, Fellow Catalysts.

Knowledge reaches in both directions, towards the What If, illuminating that terrain with often startling results, and also toward the Impossible, doing the same. In fact, serious work in either direction often illuminates the other just as much. Sometimes they trade places, being the highly fluid things they are. Funny how that works.

What do I know, personally? (persona — the thing the sound –sona comes through per-.)

I know cycles within cycles within cycles. I see the lines of my grandmother’s face written in the face of my 5-year old first cousin twice removed, my grandmother’s great-great grand-daughter, two beings separated by five generations. Are they “the same person”? Of course not — no more than I’m the “same person” I was at five, and I’m still here. Along with what if? and impossible, these identities we cling to are also far more supple and fluid than we commonly suppose. Those of you who do ritual and path-working, meditation and visualization, altered states of consciousness of so many kinds — you know what I mean.

I know the moon waxes to full and wanes to dark every month, whether I’m watching or not. The mourning doves are singing again among the bare branches here in Vermont, as they return to do each spring. I know the years, the decades. I know the snow and the green grass, the summer heat and the frost of January. If these are sometimes poetry it’s because they’re always poetry, our heartbeats the meter of the verse and song we only sometimes notice.

I see the lines on my face and my wife’s keep spreading, our hair graying, our bodies — despite the care we try to take of them — accumulating the signs of a cycle’s eventual close that will sweep them away. Rather than despair, I rejoice we’re here at all. Should we be somehow exempt from the same patterning and transformation and cycle that first brought us into manifestation, along with everything else?

I know the tremendous sustaining and healing power of the love and caring of other beings, having seen it in my life and all around me, and offered my own. We all witness human and beast and “those without their skins on” — TWOTSOs — reach out to us each day and night, in waking and dream and in-between, in the inquiring noses of dogs and cats, the human warmth all of us need, the oxygen-gift of green things, the nudges and hints and humor of dreams and visions, the food that some of these other lives provide to sustain us each day.

I know that between What If? and Impossibility — however you and I choose to label them — are hoards of beings, chances, doorways, moments and passages. (Pick something to marvel at today.)

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Monday’s full moon, night setting on camera: “light within, and light without”

I know that each day I move through so many states and flavors of consciousness — the fluidity that makes creativity and magic possible: sleep, dream, near waking, day-dreaming, full waking, concentration on a task, creative flow, intense experiences of pain or pleasure, intoxications intentional and unintentional provided by medications and “other” substances. And we all know what is fully possible in one state is inconceivable and (therefore) quite literally un-do-able in another. We know this because we’ve been there.

Between the what if and the impossible is where all of us pass our lives.

I know that both the rough-hewn and the refined spiritual technologies we call “religions” and “practices” and “rituals” and the imaginative embrace of Here and Now have deepened and enriched my life in ways I probably can never fully disentangle from all that I am and do and think and feel and suspect (a verb I infinitely prefer to “believe”). A good chunk of evidence for all these assertions is what I write about and attempt to document on this blog.

I  know the wonder and beauty and mystery and love of these things in my own ways, as many of you also do.

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A final word about proportion, because the wisdom I aspire to — the best of what I “know” — doesn’t shy from hard truths, but in the act of looking finds they’re not as hard as we make them (I make them) out to be. Amid the wonder and beauty and mystery and love, a dash of fear, never dominating, just enough of that animal survival heritage of ours to keep us alert and focused on what matters, to keen our senses, prod the pulse if need be, but never dominate the day, or cloud the whole scene.

I know that “I” — this funny little ego with its likes and dislikes, its tempers and distempers and moods and whims — doesn’t “have eternal life” (how could such a flimsy thing?), but that life has me, in ways I keep discovering. Has me, holds me up, keeps sending me into the scene, gives me a part to play.

Sometimes the supporting roles are best of all.

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Towards a Full Moon Ritual

[Updated 5 August 2020]

See also my post Moon Ritual Scrapbook with a basic moon ritual.

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Full Moon, May 18, 2019 @ MAGUS Gathering. Photo courtesy Marianne Gainey.

With last night’s May full moon, and searches from this blog for the words “full moon ritual”, it feels like time to talk a little more about ritual. Google “ritual design” and you’ll find many helpful sites. John Beckett’s helpful A Pagan Ritual Outline derives from his own long experience.

Ritual is at heart a form to focus awareness, like a melody focuses sound, like a kata or “form” focuses movement in the martial arts.

OBOD founder Ross Nichols observed that “Ritual is poetry in the world of acts”. That is, it’s distinguishable from other actions we do by its intent, its shape and form, and often by care for its appeal to the senses. Poetry and song rely on rhyme, rhythm, melody, harmony, counterpoint, emotion, symmetry, repetition and variation (chorus and new verse). It’s no surprise that effective and memorable ritual draws on the same components. Theater also underlies ritual with gesture, movement, surprise, audience participation, intonation, staging, lighting, costume, etc.

The full moon, by its shape, suggests completion of a cycle, a high point or climax in a developing change, a major turn in a process (you can’t get fuller until you empty again). More imaginatively, it can also suggest an open eye, a womb, a mirror of the sun, and so on.  These and many other associations and symbolic patterns can feed into a moon ritual. (Take a moment and write down your associations for the sliver of new moon, and you’ll be on your way to a new moon ritual.)

It helps to work with an outline or script — not as something prescribed, or to be rigidly followed without thought, but from a sense of flow and sequence. Even “spontaneous” ritual, especially for solitaries, often flows from a sense of rightness at the moment. In neither case do you need something written down to read from or use as a guide. But if that helps, or makes a big difference in quality, why not use it? Think of a favorite song you know by heart. Is knowing it so well a weakness?

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Li Bai (Wikipedia/public domain)

A few lines of the famous poem by Tang dynasty poet Li Bai (701-762), rendered more or less as “Drinking Alone with the Moon”, offer us a ritual moment:

Among flowers sits the jug of wine.
I pour alone, no other friend nearby.
I lift the cup to invite the moon
and with my shadow we make three.

(That’s my plain rendering. You can read multiple and more poetic versions of the whole poem here. The Chinese words: hua1 jian1 yi1 hu2 jiu3/du2 zhuo2 wu1 xiangqin1/ju3 bei1 yao1 ming2 yue4/dui4 ying3 cheng2 san1 ren2.)

Sometimes simplest is best. The experience of the moon shining through the flowers onto the wine, the solitary drinker, the cup, and the whole evening all around participate in the ritual just as much as the few words the speaker says to welcome the moon. Yet the ritual wouldn’t be complete without the words, because they’re called for. How does the solitary drinker “know what to say”? What fits the moment. And being alone (and possibly already a little mellowed with wine) helps shape what fits the moment. The moon is both familiar and wholly new in the moment, as are the feelings and thoughts of the drinker. A poem becomes a ritual. A ritual becomes a poem.

“Bigger” rituals work the same way. And planning and preparation can be just as effective in providing a form for rituals where gods speak, fire falls from the heavens, and the Earth Mother whispers her deepest secrets to gathered mortals.

In a Druid triad of ritual, three things happen: you open the door to the ritual, the heart of the rite takes place, and then you close the door. In Li Bai’s poem of informal ritual, the wine, moon, cup, speaker, flowers and moment each play their parts to open the door. The moon is present, and the flowers and wine and place. The speaker feels the moment, says the words, drinks, and the moment passes. The poem-as-script (re-)establishes the moment, records it, and closes it when the poem ends. Or think poem-as-ritual-photo. It’s not actually the speaker performing the ritual, but it records some part of it.

Let’s expand on the Druid triad of ritual. Below are twelve components to consider as you develop a ritual:

1–INTENTION — why are you performing the ritual? The whole ritual follows from this. A clear intention, large or small, leads to effective and enjoyable ritual.

2–MATERIALS NEEDED — cycle back here to add to your list as you develop the ritual. “Keep it simple” is a good principle. Ritual stuff isn’t the main event. But lacking the one or two things you DO need in the middle of the ritual, once the script grows to include them, is a real downer. That ritual knife, candle, bell, bowl of water, smudge stick now needs to be there. Do you need ritual clothing, body marking, etc.? Make sure it gets on the list.

3–PARTICIPANTS and ROLES — how many does the ritual need? Again, cycle back to update your “cast of characters” as your ritual plans develop. In the event of missing participants, how can you double up on roles?

Is there something for guests to do who aren’t speaking or performing major ritual actions? Can there be? Do participants — or visitors — need to prepare in advance in some way? Learn a short chant by heart? A melody? A ritual gesture? Vigils, fasts, prayer, meditation, questing, etc. can help participants bring their full ritual selves to the rite from the beginning.

4–PLACE and TIME — flexibility is key, especially if weather, reservations, or schedules have other ideas for your ritual. Pre-planned alternative locations in case of rain, etc., announced in advance, keep crowd control, confusion and disappointment to a minimum. Is accessibility an issue for any participants or visitors?

5–RITUAL HOUSEKEEPING — “Please turn off your cell phones!” Run through any details guests need to know. “This is what we’ll be doing. Don’t break the circle, or cut yourself a door in it, or ask a ritual celebrant to do so for you. Restrooms are at the end of the hall, or 20 miles away; find a tree. That’s north, so this is west.”

6–FORMAL OPENING — some combination and sequence of purification, grounding, centering, welcoming, proclaiming ritual intent, honoring and inviting Others to be present. Bells, singing bowls, incense, water, fire, salt, chant, drums, etc. all can help. Casting a circle, establishing sacred space, erecting or acknowledging altars, redefining the status of participants, the place, objects nearby or some combination of these may be appropriate. Choose who does these things, and why, and how others can take part. Less talk is usually better. So is simplicity.

7–The MAIN RITE — what you’ve gathered to do. Re-enacting a myth; marking the changed status of a participant through initiation, etc.; celebrating the season, a date, festival, harvest, planting, boat-launch, new home, new family member, etc. Healing, defending, strengthening, commemorating, blessing, gifting. Where you do the stuff specific to your tradition, practice, gods, calendar, and so on.

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MAGUS 2019 Maypole!

8–FEAST, ritual meal, distribution of ritual objects, etc. — a piece of maypole ribbon, a slice of apple (showing the star), a drink, a stave of ritual significance, a card or picture, stone, sea-shell, etc.

9–READINGS, Music, Poetry, Blessings, Prayers — this important portion of a ritual can accompany the Feast, etc. to help sustain the ritual energy, hold focus, minimize side chatter, etc. It also gives everyone present a chance to contribute personal requests, blessings, songs, etc.

10–CLOSING — reverse what you did for the opening: thank Others you invited, uncast the circle, return ritual elements to their original places, desanctify what needs desanctifying, take down the altar. Ring the bell, beat the drum formally, close the ritual. Re-establish the world before the ritual began. Again, simple is good.

11–ANNOUNCEMENTS — upcoming events, requests for help with clean-up, calendars, thanking visitors, etc.

12–CLEAN-UP — leave the ritual space as pristine — or more so — than when you arrived. Make this a ritual act of service and gratitude.

Conversation following the rite can be an opportunity for formal teaching, Q-and-A, casual discussion, ritual debriefing and a post-mortem “how did it go?”, planning for another event, a meal at a favorite restaurant (which can be announced on Meet-up, etc., as an outreach tool).

Were you expecting a script for a specific ritual here? No need — you know enough to develop one of your own better suited to you, your situation, your practice and your intention. And after a few run-throughs, you’ll be on your way to developing your own ritual design “best practices”.

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Looking for more detail? Check out Isaac Bonewits’ excellent Neopagan Rites: A Guide to Creating Public Rituals that Work (Llewellyn, 2007), available used for just a couple of dollars.

Spring Equinox/Alban Eilir

A blessed Spring Equinox to all!

Moonrise earlier this evening …IMG_3481

August Moon, and Serving

In New England the Sturgeon Moon, as some Native Americans call it,  arrives this coming Sunday, the 26th of August, but early enough in the morning that many will observe it the previous evening.

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Rowan in the front yard, its berries ripening

OBOD Druids are encouraged to do monthly Peace Meditations on the full moon. I never have, which is odd, considering how largely the moon figured in my teens and twenties. For years I observed its phases and influence, absorbed what I could find about its significance in diverse cultures, wrote poems and songs to it, connected to Goddess through it. But a peace meditation?

You could say I absorbed the wrong things from Christianity: “Think not that I am come to bring peace on earth: I came not to bring peace, but a sword” (Matt 10:34). This has proved one of the most accurate of Christian prophecies. Though it’s not so much a prophecy as a statement that this is a world of the flow of many energies. By its very nature, changes keep coming, and the shifts and rebalances can’t all be smooth, given the pockets and reservoirs of other energies that may resist or simply move on a different time-scale and energy flow.

Druids are called to be peacemakers, and the popular Peace Prayer stands ready as a worthwhile practice, daily for some. Here’s one version of the words:

The Peace Prayer

Deep within the still centre of my being
May I find peace.
Silently within the quiet of the Grove
May I share peace.
Gently (or powerfully) within the greater circle of humankind
May I radiate peace.

Find, share, radiate: all are valid practices I see as part of my own practice. Spiderwebs and hurricanes co-exist in this world. Both will manifest long after I’m gone and forgotten, but I can choose how I will align myself each day. I prefer, actually, to focus on love, which can exist even in tumult and turbulence, when peace has long fled. A home with children and pets and one or more working adults may not know much peace, but it can still overflow with love. A damaged landscape after the rebalancing that storms bring needs love more than peace.

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OBOD ritual proclaims, “Let us begin by giving peace to the quarters, for without peace can no work be”. I don’t know what kind of work you do, but if I required peace before I  started, I’d get nothing done. Don’t get me wrong: I value OBOD ritual, much of the language engages me, helping in the work of magic, but there I must turn aside and let the moment flow past. So I give love to the quarters instead, something they seem to use more readily.

A fragment of a prayer that has stayed with me — maybe someone can identify its source — I encountered decades ago, though I’ve never been able to track it to its lair. But I’ve remembered it fairly accurately, and I’ve recited it often: “I drink at your well. I honor your gods. I bring an undefended heart to our meeting-place”. This triad of actions faces outward in a way I know I can practice myself. For me it establishes a distinct vibration I value.

It also points toward a way I can hear and answer the call to serve.

“Serving is different from helping”, writes Rachel Naomi Remen. I cite her words in full below, because the following text has become so important to me, as a meditation seed and guide and source of wisdom.

In recent years the question how can I help? has become meaningful to many people. But perhaps there is a deeper question we might consider. Perhaps the real question is not how can I help? but how can I serve?

Serving is different from helping. Helping is based on inequality; it is not a relationship between equals. When you help you use your own strength to help those of lesser strength. If I’m attentive to what’s going on inside of me when I’m helping, I find that I’m always helping someone who’s not as strong as I am, who is needier than I am. People feel this inequality. When we help we may inadvertently take away from people more than we could ever give them; we may diminish their self-esteem, their sense of worth, integrity and wholeness. When I help I am very aware of my own strength. But we don’t serve with our strength, we serve with ourselves. We draw from all of our experiences. Our limitations serve, our wounds serve, even our darkness can serve. The wholeness in us serves the wholeness in others and the wholeness in life. The wholeness in you is the same as the wholeness in me. Service is a relationship between equals.

Helping incurs debt. When you help someone they owe you one. But serving, like healing, is mutual. There is no debt. I am as served as the person I am serving. When I help I have a feeling of satisfaction. When I serve I have a feeling of gratitude. These are very different things.

Serving is also different from fixing. When I fix a person I perceive them as broken, and their brokenness requires me to act. When I fix I do not see the wholeness in the other person or trust the integrity of the life in them. When I serve I see and trust that wholeness. It is what I am responding to and collaborating with.

There is distance between ourselves and whatever or whomever we are fixing. Fixing is a form of judgment. All judgment creates distance, a disconnection, an experience of difference. In fixing there is an inequality of expertise that can easily become a moral distance. We cannot serve at a distance. We can only serve that to which we are profoundly connected, that which we are willing to touch … We serve life not because it is broken but because it is holy.

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Living Enchantment

“Who’s been here before you?”

Josephine McCarthy, whose Magic of the North Gate I reviewed here, writes about magic with the instinctive feel as well as insight of someone who practices it.

Among the many ways to conceive magic, she suggests one useful way is as an

interface of the land and divinity; it is the power of the elements around you, the power of the Sun and Moon, the air that you breathe and the language of the unseen beings … living alongside you. With all that in mind, how valid is it to then try and interface with this power by using a foreign language, foreign deities, and directional powers that have no relevance to the actual land upon which you live? The systems [of magic] will work, and sometimes very powerfully, but how does it affect the land and ourselves? I’m not saying that to use these systems is wrong; I use them in various ways myself. But I think it is important to be very mindful of where and what you are, and to build on that foundation (Josephine McCarthy, Magical Knowledge Book 1: Foundations, pgs. 19-20) .

Lest all this seem confusing (and it can be), recall again the prayer that reflexively acknowledges “… these human limitations … these forms and prayers”. The great challenge of spiritual-but-not-religious is precisely this — to find a worthy form. Find the forms that work for you, respect them and your interactions with them, and listen also for nudges and hints (the shoves you won’t need to listen for — that’s the point of a shove) to change, modify, adapt, expand, and try something new. A spiritual practice, like the human that applies it, will change or die. Sometimes, like the shell the hermit crab uses for shelter and carries around with it for a time, we need to leave a home because we’ve outgrown it — no shame to the shell, or to the person abandoning that form of shelter.

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Besides, this sort of debate — about which deities and wights to work with, which elemental and directional associations remain valid and which have shifted, and so forth — while perhaps more acute for those inhabiting former colonies of European powers because of cultural inheritances and influences — resolves itself fairly quickly in practice. It’s best treated, in my experience, individually, and case by case, rather than in any dogmatic way applicable for everyone. Stay alert, practice respect and common sense, and work with what comes.

What does this have to do with Brighid?

I’ve written of intimations I’ve received from one who’s apparently a central European deity, Thecu Stormbringer. The second time I visited Serpent Mound in Ohio, I heard in meditation a name I’ve been working with: cheh-gwahn-hah. Deity, ancestor, land wight? Don’t know yet. Does this name or being somehow remove or downgrade Brighid from my practice, because it has the stronger and more local claim, emerging from the continent where I live? Could it in the future? Certainly it’s possible. But in my experience, while other beings assert their wishes and claims, it’s up to us to choose how we respond.  We, too, are beings with choice and freedom. That’s much of our value to each other and to gods and goddesses. We have the stories from the major religions of great leaders answering a call. Sometimes they also went into retreat, wilderness, seclusion, etc. to catalyze just such an experience. All these means are still available for us.

For me, then, part of the Enchantment of Brighid is openness to possibility. The goddess “specializes” in healing, poetry and smithcraft — arts and skills of change, transformation and receptivity to powerful energies to fuel those changes and transformations. We seek inspiration and know sometimes it runs at high tide and sometimes low. As this month moves forward, we have a moon waxing to full, an aid from the planets and the elements to kindle enchantments, transformations, shifts in awareness.

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OGRELD and that Other F-word

Fake Druidry and OGRELD and OGRELD Redux are two previous semi-satirical posts taking a look at an imagined “One Genuine Real Live Druidry” (OGRELD). The prompt — and the acronym — come from a comment from J. M. Greer quoted in the first post: “… none of us have any right to claim possession of the One Genuine Real Live Druidry …”

With post titles like that, of course, it’s hard to be surprised when they provoke some predictable responses, from careful readers, and from careless ones, too; from readers assuming I was saying modern Druidry is somehow fake or invalid — or more offensively, that I was somehow saying their particular flavor of Druidry was fake, etc.

After all, if we’re indulging in reaction-mode to contemporary headlines, we know how “fake” gets bandied about as an attack word, almost superseding the “original” F-word. “If in doubt, try both out” — in public (or, worse, on Facebook or Twitter) and see which raises the general temperature sooner.

I submit that if you’re looking for spiritual guidance, a sense of your life’s mission, social media may not be your ideal first pick or best go-to.

What then are we to make of the expression “fake it till you make it”? Are we so provoked by the word “fake” because in fact so many of us feel slightly or very insubstantial, a “thing of nothing”, and we need the sense of outraged ego to weigh us down and keep us from floating away entirely?

Might there possibly be better ways of grounding and centering, of returning my ego to a sane place, where it can serve the whole of me?

We’re in the process of making, and in particular of self-making, and fakery (like bakery) does begin with experimentation. But if I’m polite, I just don’t subject others to my practice unless they ask. (You visit this blog, and you’ve asked.)

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So how do I go about faking it till I make it? What tools lie at hand?

This coming Saturday I facilitate an afternoon discussion, third in a series, this one on the topic “How to Bring More Love into Your Life”. This is an opportunity for service on my other path, and as I’ve noted, my paths intersect constantly. So, Druid self, standing in the intersection, what do you witness?

In the way of such things, I start to hear questions in reply to the implied question of the topic. (Answer the question with a question.) A week or so before such an event, I begin to pick up on clues, and gather impressions. If I’m alert, I get them down, longhand or in a computer note. Or, to put it another way that sounds less woo-hoo, “it just occurred to me that …” And yesterday, I also asked my wife.

Often she doesn’t like to be ambushed by big questions out of the blue, especially if she’s in the middle of a weaving project (which she often is), and her focus in on patterns, and thread-counts and the young weaver she mentors each Friday. But I also find she often gives the best answers then, spontaneously, so I keep asking, at the risk of occasional spousal fallout.

A pause. Then she says, “Before I look at anything, or put my attention on anything else, I try to focus first on the highest I can find”. Do you see why I married her?

The “highest I can find” is a worthy meditation topic. Then a practice, one I can keep enlarging. And I don’t mean all abstract or “light only”. The highest this morning may well be the chickadees and returning songbirds singing outdoors, the steady drip of snowmelt off the eaves, the slant of light that says longer days, yes — and also the nights, with their stars and a waxing moon. Often it takes night to see fire best.

One way to bring more love in, in other words, is to honor and cherish what you have. If those words recall for you as for me the now old-fashioned marriage service, that’s worth pondering. We’re each married to the cosmos, after all. We’re always “in a relationship”. Why let my carelessness diminish it?

What other ways can I open the door to a greater flow of spirit, which is another way of saying the same thing?

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Make room for it. If more is to come in, it will need a place to call its own. “Standing room only” doesn’t appeal much as an invitation. What can I clear away? “Room, fairy: here comes Oberon!” says Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. What access do I offer spirit to the heart of who I am? What practices can help me be more grateful and open?

Much of what I do each day, like washing dishes, building the fire, doing laundry, is a ready opportunity. If I “do it till it sings”, I might even find myself singing along with it. “Pure cheese!” screeches my censor, my inner cynic. Well, cynics and censors need love too.

Singing points to another clue. Like all things, we vibrate in harmony with the things around us. Vibrate with love, and we invite love in, we make room for it.  (If in doubt, I whisper to my inner cynic, try it out.) That may mean playing music rather than indulgence in a sad mood. Though sadness can be instructive too, if I don’t overdo it. With so much light and singing in the world, I want to let more in.

On an Old English Facebook group I co-admin, I posted a brief entry earlier today: On ðǣm forman dæġe Hrēðmōnaþes sēoð wē fulne mōnan. “On the first day of Hrethmonth, we (will) see a full moon”. (Hrethmonth is the month of the goddess Hrethe about whom not much is known. If you’re looking for a meditation topic, there’s a new one. Hrethmonth is also “Wild Month”, and the month for Mad March Hares. Practice wildness often. Druidry is, after all, wild wisdom.) The full moon brings the time for the monthly Peace Meditation that OBOD encourages. Lunatic, lover, poet, the gods and the wild world know your name.

Yes, we each practice our One Genuine Real Live Druidry. That is, we each respond to the unique circumstances as we live these lives on earth, making bad and better choices and ignoring or learning from the consequences.

If you seek counsel, friend, do what opens your heart.

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Posted 27 February 2018 by adruidway in Druidry, full moon, spiritual toolkit

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Strawberry Moon

The June full moon, often aptly named the Strawberry Moon, actually reaches its fullest tomorrow (Friday) morning, but most North Americans will see it at its peak tonight.

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wild strawberries, north yard — perfect reason not to mow

 

Tonight I’ll offer my full moon ritual for the health of the hemlocks that line the north border of our property, as well as other beings, “quando la luna è crescente” — while the moon’s still waxing. As the full moon nearest the summer solstice less than two weeks away, Strawberry Moon plays counterpoint to the shortest night and longest day of the year, and governs the first of the true summer months here in New England. I’ll be posting a follow-up in the next weeks.

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“queen” hemlock, 50 ft. tall, visible from where I write

As Dana has so passionately documented on her Druid Garden site, including a powerful ogham/galdr healing ritual, the eastern hemlock battles against the hemlock woolly adelgid, widespread enough that it’s gained its own acronym — HWA. The adelgid, an aphid-like insect, is just one of several pests that afflict the trees, but one not native to North America and a factor in near-complete mortality in infested areas. As a commenter on Dana’s blog notes, natural biological agents offer the best and least toxic means of control and containment. The United States Dept of Agriculture site summarizes the situation well.

And if you ask why, Our true self and the land are one, says R. J. Stewart. As always, test and try it out for yourself. That ways lies deep conviction, replacing casual opinion with earth loved, spirit manifest, life full.

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East Coast Gathering 2016

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photo courtesy Krista Carter

The 7th OBOD East Coast Gathering (ECG) took place this last weekend with over 100 Druids, friends and family gathering at Camp Netimus in NE Pennsylvania. [Go here for accounts of previous Gatherings.]

Netimus, a girls’ summer camp, has welcomed us each autumn for Alban Elfed, the Autumn Equinox. The non-human staff of coyotes, hawks, dragonflies, chipmunks and owls lets us know they know we’re present, too, adding their own wild signatures to the rituals, the evening fire circles and the day and night-time hours.

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Hex in his drumming workshop

This year we celebrated the turning of the year among ourselves, without the headline special guests that can make registration for the Gathering a matter of internet frenzy and growing wait-lists.

We initiated ten new Bards, two Ovates and two Druids into the Order, as well as holding workshops on fairies, crystal jewelry, drumming, moon wisdom and beekeeping, and gathering in the camp dining hall for meals our devoted kitchen crew volunteers prepare with love, laughter and long hours of hard work.

Each evening brings the fire circle, always a draw. And this year we organized a more competitive eisteddfod, showcasing our singers, storytellers, musicians, dancers, fire-spinners and mead-makers, culminating in a final round on Saturday.

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photo courtesy Gabby Roberts

 

The Ovates gathered mugwort Saturday morning as we prepared our gift to the Tribe during the main Alban Elfed ritual Saturday afternoon. An invasive that can take over, mugwort nevertheless has healing properties, healthful in teas and soothing as a smoked herb, too (when it smells remarkably like pot!).

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photo courtesy Krista Carter

 

Preparing for Ritual

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photo courtesy Nadia Chauvet

 

A nearly full moon rose overhead each night, bathing the Gathering in light, and making the Camp paths and steps a little easier to navigate if, like me, you forgot all three nights to fetch your flashlight from your cabin before dark — needing a light to find your light!

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photo courtesy Alec Mayer

The rain — thank you, Spirits of Place! — held off till shortly after the closing ritual Sunday morning.

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The reason Camps like this happen at all is that enough people are willing to give of themselves. Rather than complain about what doesn’t happen to their own narrow liking, enough people contribute to what does.

And among the thanks, reminiscences and anecdotes that always leave us both smiling and teary during the final ritual, several comments stood out, like Frank’s. He thanked us for the opportunity to serve. Those people in our lives that we come to value the most are those who give without drama or ego display.

Our closing ritual talked of all four elements, including the humility of water, that takes whatever shape we ask. Alban Elfed, Light on the Water, is a festival of the West, of Water, of balance and change, the dynamic that Druids revere, and strive to navigate with all the grace and wisdom we can muster.

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photo courtesy Alec Mayer

 

Thank you, everyone, two and four-footed, winged, scaled, legless, and unbodied, who made this ECG another splendid opportunity for the Tribe to gather and celebrate and grow.

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Yule Moon and Solstice

Some three weeks away, now, there’s a Full Moon on Christmas Day, at 6:11 am, Eastern Standard Time (U.S.). It will set less than an hour later where I live, so I won’t obsess over exact astronomical details or feel any need to rouse myself on a dark winter morning to witness it, but instead enjoy it the evenings before and after.

The Solstice, however, is different, and merits a different welcome. While I’m not sure I’ll keep the traditional night-long vigil through the longest night to greet the dawn, I will be up late, laying one last charge of wood in the woodstove, and contemplating the coming new year. And the afternoon before and after I’ll take part in a Solstice ritual in two different towns.

Why? Do the seasonal festivals really matter?

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Yes, this is a pile of sticks and small branches in an old orchard and pasture near where I live. You can see the long shadows of the tree-trunks — it’s late afternoon in November, a week ago. The owner cut a dying tree from the treeline that stands to the left, outside the picture. He’s already chopped, split and picked up the firewood, and gathered the remainder here.

Is it useful? No. It’s just brush. Burn it or dump it in a gully.

Is it useful? Yes. It’s kindling for a whole winter, and twigs for wreathes and crafts.

Is it useful? Who knows? That depends on how someone uses it.

Sometimes I find you have to ask the same question at least three times to get enough answers to work with.

Follow through on each answer and you get a different outcome. Is one of them the “right” answer? Who is asking?

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One of the suggestions for solitary celebration of the Winter Solstice that I’ve adapted and adopted from OBOD is this simple rite:

On the longest night, go through the house and turn off all lights. Spend time feeling and acknowledging the darkness. Then light a single candle, and go from room to room, lighting a candle in each one. Say what feels right for you to say.

Touching the Sacred, Part 3: Days of Beltane

[Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4]

[To the tune of “The Twelve Days of Christmas”]

On the second day of Beltane, the Old Gods said to me:

Dance round the fire, and then say what you truly long to be …

I always find Beltane lasts longer than a single day. This year I’m celebrating it over three days, from yesterday, the “official” May-Day, through tomorrow, with the Full Moon at its peak at 11:42 pm, Eastern Standard Time in the U.S. (that’s 03:42 Greenwich Time, May 4).

Do you carry a private moon with you? At times like these I feel I do.  It’s tucked under my ribcage, trembling like a small forest creature that’s heard an owl: I have a lunar heart. Or in place of my mouth, a moon. No words, just white shadow wherever I turn to speak.

I do the original moonwalk, following shimmering paths visible at no other time. Or I hold out my hands and each palm glows with a hemisphere of unearthly light. I clap them together and the blow sparks new planets all up and down my spine.

Loenid Tishkov:

Leonid Tishkov: “Private Moon”

Festival observances, like other rituals, can make us vulnerable to ourselves in powerful ways. Often we’re taught to leave dreams in childhood, as if adults don’t need to dream at all, let alone dream bigger than we ever dared as children.

Open myself to desire and dream, and longings I’ve shoved aside, sometimes for years, can rush back full-force. What I still dream and wish for are gifts my childhood has kept in store. Not just for the grown-up me, though it can feel that way. These gifts may have taken human or animal form, wandered homeless, raggedy and broken and weeping, or snarling, feral, wild things no child could understand. Things it runs from, things that hide under the bed, in the closet, that stretch and loom after the bedroom light gets turned off.

But the child also recognizes them as blood kindred, curls up with them each night, and each dawn they glimmer and vanish till the next twilight gathering. They reappear in that book you read and re-read till it fell apart in your hands, in the story no bedtime retelling could ever wear out. The childhood rituals that primed you for adult ones of deeper mystery: sex, death, creation.

What I do with them now are the gifts I give back to that younger self, some fulfilled, others still orphans. But I have brought them out and looked at them head on, and hugged them. I take them in even as I give them back. And in that circuit lies power.

Beltane pairs with Samhuinn across the ritual year, its opposite pole, and this Beltane-with-a-Scorpio-Moon I’m feeling it particularly strongly. No surprise, the astrologically-minded say:

The sun is now anchored in the sign of Taurus. Beltane occurs when it is precisely half way through the sturdy earth sign. The sign is symbolized by the fertile bull and, given its association with the fecundity of the springtime in the Northern hemisphere, Beltane in particular is a full-fledged celebration of life, creativity and the abundance of the upcoming summer season.  

But, its polarity, Scorpio, is not. 

Scorpios domain deals with matters that no one else wants to: the vile, the putrid, the petrifying, the intense, the rejected, the betrayed, the scorned, the scathing, the denied and the dead. Scorpio reminds us that we can repudiate anything for an eternity but that doesnt mean it will be resolved, it doesnt mean that it will be repaired, and it doesnt mean that it will go away. 

Ritual is one way to approach the difficult as well as the beautiful, to manage them in more bite-sized (ceremonial-sized) pieces. And sometimes, to discover the beautiful and the difficult, the deformed and the immensely powerful, amount to the same thing.

Beltane carries Samhuinn in its belly, or on its back. Or Samhuinn is Beltane turned inside-out. Both are fire-festivals, and fire does not always lie easily on the hearth. Sometimes it flames forth, blows past barriers and oppositions in its guise of wildfire.

More in the next post.

[Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4]

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Images: Leonid Tishkov/”Private Moon”;

Beltane 2015 and Touching the Sacred

[Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4]

Here we are, about two weeks out from Beltane/May Day — or Samhuinn if you live Down Under in the Southern Hemisphere. And with a Full Moon on May 3, there’s a excellent gathering of “earth events” to work with, if you choose. Thanks to the annual Edinburgh Fire Festival, we once again have Beltane-ish images of the fire energy of this ancient Festival marking the start of Summer.

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You may find like I do that Festival energies of the “Great Eight”* kick in at about this range — half a month or so in advance. A nudge, a hint, a restlessness that eases, a tickle that subsides, or shifts toward knowing, with a glance at the calendar. Ah! Here we are again!

For me, that’s regardless of whether I’m involved in any public gathering, or anticipating the time — because it’s never anything as rigid as one single day, but rather an elastic interval — on my own.

Yes, purists may insist on specifics, and calculate their moons and Festivals down to the hour, so as not to miss the supposed peak energies of the time. And if this gives you a psychological boost to know and do this that’s worth the fuss, go for it.

Below is Midnightblueowl’s marvelous painted “Wheel of the Year” (with Beltane at approximately 9 o’clock). With its colors and images, it captures something of the feeling of the Year as we walk it — a human cycle older than religions and civilizations. Or the cycle helped make us human, changing us as we began to notice and acknowledge and celebrate it. Try looking at it both ways, and see what comes of that.

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Painted “Wheel of the Year” by Midnightblueowl. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

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For today I take as divination the message below, which got promptly diverted to the spam folder: “This page decidedly has whole of the information I precious astir this dependent and didn’t make love who to ask.”

O crazy spam-scribe of the ethers, you stumbled onto one of the Great Paradoxes, best stated by William Blake, with his “infinity in the palm of your hand, eternity in an hour.” In that sense, yes: this page “decidedly has whole of the information” though it is also what it is, a finite thing. Like each of us, like the tools we use to connect to What Matters, like the sneaking suspicion that will not go away that there’s Something More. (Even if it’s just an explanation of what’s up with all these capital letters, anyway?)

And since Beltane’s approaching, there is indeed a “precious astir” at work as the energies swirl.  Who or what is “dependent”?! The writer of the spam, not knowing “who to ask” and even acknowledging he “didn’t make love.” And all of us, dependent on the earth and each other.

I bless you, oh Visitor to this e-shrine, workshop, journal — the many-selfed thing that blogs can be and become. Who to ask? you inquire. Your inward Guide, always present and waiting for you where you are most true. Or the face of the Guide as it manifests again and again in your life — stranger at the market who smiles at you, bird that catches your eye, tune you find yourself humming.

How to get there, that place we all long for, that colors our thinking and follows and leads us in day- and night-dreams? Place that Festivals and holidays and time and pain and love and living all — sometimes — remind us of? Ah, you mean The Question! Love, gratitude, service — all things any of us can begin today; all things, it’s important to remember, we already do in some measure, or we would die. Too easy? Or you already know that? There’s also ritual — finite, imperfect ritual, our human dance. Mark, O Spirit, and hear us now, confirming this our sacred vow … 

What’s your sacred vow? Don’t know yet? Got some work to do? Tune in to the next post for more.

[Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4]

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Image: Beltane Edinburgh Fire Festival; painted Wheel of the Year by Midnightblueowl

*The “Great Eight” yearly festivals with their OBOD names: Imbolc, Alban Eilir/Spring Equinox, Bealteinne, Alban Hefin/Summer Solstice, Lughnasadh, Alban Elfed/Autumn Equinox, Samhuinn, Alban Arthan/Winter Solstice. Many alternate names exist, and almost every one has a Christian festival on or near it, too.

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